Without the underlying skill of identifying what constitutes wasteful and what is okay as an alternative, we will be logically lost while looking at the zero waste movement.
Everyone lives a different lifestyle and requires a different set of priorities to track their habits. This can get confusing because we want to go zero waste eventually some day, so how do we understand how to prioritise?
At the heart of this, it will require us to change the way we look at objects around us.
By the end of this page, I hope you will be able to search for alternatives independently. How you chose to go zero waste, will be completely in your control!
Living zero waste is about the thrill of finding solutions, not depriving you by pointing out the problems.
This will require you to understand two simple concepts:
|Linear system||Circular system|
|The world we have lived in for the past 50-70 years||The world we are now evolving into|
Every object around us has been designed to serve these two concepts of economy. The product itself does not change, but the way it is designed for the system can be changed. For every product design that serves the linear system, there is an alternate solution in circular system. Scrolling down, you will see many examples of this as well.
People living low waste eventually master this difference and that is how they come up with creative solutions to go zero waste.
Let us look at some of the common objects we use, through the lens of Linear vs circular system:
Plastic vs plastic free
Plastic by the virtue of its nature is not infinitely recyclable. That means it downgrades with time and eventually ends up in the landfill. Yet recycling is extremely crucial to optimise this material as well as avoid plastic pollution in the oceans. There are several harmless objects in your house that can have a very easy solution by simply switching the material. This way you know there is an infinite life cycle to your product and it is not designed for disposal.
Disposable vs Reusables
Disposables had not always been a terrible thing. It promised an ensured sanitation, assured us whatever we buy will not degrade until we open the airtight packaging. When plastic was used to design disposable packaging, it helped with waterproofing and leaks. It opened the door to selling items in limited quantity with an assurance to the customer that their item had not been tampered with. Unfortunately the convenience didn’t last long, and now disposables become the quickest method to fill up our landfills and oceans.
Several disposable items that require a drastic change in public behaviour have been solved temporarily by making compostable versions of it. Understand, that these compostable versions are an attempt to force the linear system to become circular. Although they are guilt free solutions, you can still carry your reusable items and refuse ANY form of disposables, if you personally wish to create no waste.
Packaging vs Product
There will be items where you absolutely love the product and couldn’t care less about the packaging as long as you have that product. If you aren’t too picky about the brand, you can look for the same product in alternate packaging. A packaging material that can be cleaned and collected for recycling later. Pure Glass, Metal, Foil or Paper are a decent alternative.
The best option that trumps all, is finding any product being sold in bulk. Until then we can make do with alternative packaging.
We can even demand our favourite brands to make the switch to circular economy. As insignificant as you may feel, use the language that companies understand. If “Customer satisfaction is prime” make sure you make your voice heard if you are not satisfied with their outdated packaging practices, and that you are willing to look for options elsewhere.
Don’t worry about the majority being unaware. Make sure you have high standards as an informed customer.
A simple email/a message/customer care call/social media post will push companies to think about what their customers expect of them.
Material vs Experience
Sometimes the experience itself is wasteful and you can’t help it no matter what you try. We have convenience, age old habit and memories attached to these experiences and cannot let go of it quickly even if we know better. Mastering the art of letting go can dub you not just as a zero waste pro but teach you some much needed patience and discipline. It drastically reduces the waste you create.
Most people see this aspect of zero waste life first and immediately get repulsed by thinking its not for them, since it indicates “deprivation” or “time consuming tasks” to them. In truth, its only about seeing your experiences in a different light.
Individual ownership vs Shared resources
Sharing economy is a great concept for optimising existing resources instead of building new ones.
Car share services is an excellent example of this. By optimising the use of vehicles on the road, we can reduce the traffic and thus carbon emissions too.
Lets's see where else we can apply this concept
Changing the system to go zero waste is not just about going back to the way we lived 70 years ago, but it’s about doing it bigger and better. Companies are designing solutions in sharing economy and making big money while optimising use of already established resources. There is a space for everyone in the circular economy future and we only need to figure how we can find it.
It is easy to make the argument that we live in a convenience motivated world that drove us to create the trash problem. But there have been plenty of examples of services and products from circular economy that customers enjoy in today’s time.
In a future where all our needs can be met with a design solution adhering to a circular economy, we will have no trouble living zero waste. But by being idle as a consumer, the linear economy market is encouraged to drag out its horrifying impact on the world.
The good news is, change can be brought in just a short period of time, if all of us switch to companies, products and services that support this future.